is a small niche of the sport of snowboarding
. It is typically practised with hard plastic shelled boots called "hardboots" and carving or race-oriented snowboards. Loosely, it is the pursuit of snowboarding mostly on the ground, in the forward direction, with the primary goal of making clean, smooth turns. By this definition, alpine snowboards
technically came first, and freestyle snowboards
came second. However the term "alpine" has come to be mostly associated with snowboarding in hardboots, as they are the choice for people seeking the purest carved turn. Lately, the terms "Alpine Snowboarding" and "Hardboot Snowboarding", or just "Hardbooting" have become synonymous.
Alpine snowboards are stiffer and narrower than freestyle or freeride boards and have small noses and minimal tails to maximize effective edge length. Alpine boards are often longer than other snowboards and vary in length from around 150 to over 200 centimeters; they have large sidecut radii, mostly in the range of nine to thirteen meters. There are three main types of alpine snowboard: all-mountain
, and race
- All-mountain boards are built to provide strong carving ability while allowing all-terrain riding. They are wider, feature full noses and usually have round tails.
- Freecarve boards are built for carving on groomed trails. They resemble race boards, but are designed to be ridden recreationally, and at slower speeds than race boards.
- Race boards are used by experts for high speed, high precision carving. They are raced at the national and World Cup level in slalom and giant slalom, and at the Olympic level in giant slalom. A few top level boardercross racers also ride alpine snowboards. Race boards are also commonly used recreationally by expert snowboarders, or those seeking to become experts. Manufacturers of alpine boards typically offer slightly detuned versions of their race models in a standard "stock" range of sizes. They may also offer full professional race construction for a premium.
Alpine snowboards use plate bindings that are much stiffer than the common strap bindings found on most snowboards. The bindings use a variety of different mechanisms to keep the boot in place. The traditional is a set of bails and a toe clip. Other step-in systems like the Intec system have become popular. Some manufacturers also have their own proprietary step-in systems.
Alpine snowboarders use boots with a hard plastic shell usually referred to as hardboots that are somewhat similar to ski boots, though they tend to have a shortened heel to minimize hanging over the edge of the snowboard, and have more fore-aft ankle flexibility than ski boots. Some people are turned off snowboarding in hardboots because they assume the boots are uncomfortable, or not as warm as regular snowboard boots. Because of the design differences between ski boots and hard-shell snowboard boots - softer plastic, more fore-aft flex, and the more widespread use of heat moldable liners for hardshell snowboard boots - hardboots are often just as, if not more, comfortable than most softboots because they offer more support and do not use strap bindings which tend to put pressure on the top of people's feet when strapped in tight for more edge control. With hardboots riders are able to get more edge control than any softboot can provide without hurting their feet in overtightened strap bindings.
The Progression of the Sport of Alpine Snowboarding
Since alpine snowboarders represent such a small minority of snowboarders, alpine equipment has all but disappeared from retail snowboard shops. As a result, alpine snowboarders have formed a grassroots movement
to help keep the sport alive. They have developed web sites dedicated to selling Alpine equipment and to providing information and public discussion about alpine snowboarding.
Notable Alpine Snowboarders
- Philipp Schoch - The first snowboarder ever to defend his Olympic title (winning the PGS in 2002 and 2006).
- Chris Klug - The only person to win an Olympic medal after receiving an organ transplantation.
- Karine Ruby - Two time Olympic medallist (Gold in the Giant Slalom in 1998 and silver in the PGS in 2002).
- Ross Rebagliati - First ever Olympic champion in snowboarding. Also know for testing positive to marijuana and nearly loosing his gold medal as a result.